When I was in middle school, I remember being told to never speak about certain topics in social settings. As I grew older, I managed to avoid these topics at all costs. Now that my life has changed, I can reevaluate why I was taught these rules, and whether or not they were sound.
1. Never ask someone if they are Republican or Democrat
As I said in my post “Relabeling a Cause”, there are many reasons for not asking this question. These words have a lot of values attributed to them, and when someone is identified in such a way, we make assumptions about them before we really get to know them. While I still agree with the premise, I feel like there is no real way to know a person without understanding these almost basic things about them. Close friends should know these things. “Do you really feel that way about gay marriage/poor people/religion? You want to stand with a group that believes that?”
I believe this rule also reaches to asking someone whether they are part of other groups. I have never asked someone directly if they were a feminist, because it was all at once asking how someone feels about nearly everything. These things are found out naturally, and need to be resolved between two people before they can become close. Are you okay with your friend being this way? If yes, great. You can have many awesome discussions. However… if you know that they feel a certain way about a topic that you feel strongly about, and you don’t agree with them, your relationship will eventually fall apart. And that’s the sad part. Friends you used to be close to are suddenly abrasive toward you. They touched on some core part of you that you can’t resolve with them. How can you look at them the same way, hang out without thinking about how they are?
On the other hand, not asking them if they are Republican/Democrat/Feminist/Gay/Straight means that you aren’t comfortable with them and never will be. Find your values, and find your real friends.
2. Never talk about abortion
I never understood this question in middle school, mostly because when they said to never talk about it, they meant that we should never ask what it was. Now that I understand what abortion is, I can safely say this another topic that will come up between people who are truly comfortable with each other. It’s also a topic that is splashed over every election, so opinion will come whether we want it or not.
However, I have a serious issue with this rule. My first assumption about this rule was that someone else had already decided what it was and what needed to be done about it, so there was no reason for me to involve myself. When I grew older, I saw what ramifications staying silent had. Women are suffering in silence everyday because no one wants to talk about the difficult topics. I suppose this is one of the reasons that feminists are considered rude or mean, because they put the blunt topic out in the open and force people to face what is happening.
This is one of my weak points. I hate being impolite, and because this rule is in my head, I can barely tolerate speaking about it with other people. I do have my opinions though. I know how I feel about abortion. Yet I refuse to break the silence with the people around me. I am working against my own fear constantly. I wonder if this is true for other women. Are we trained to stay quiet and pleasant at all times, and therefore can’t stand the idea of speaking out? We have voices and opinions, but can’t seem to bring ourselves to talk about what is really happening. All conversations can’t be superficial and pleasant. We have to go against our own training and upbringing if we want to create real change.
I will reject this rule in my own life. Loosen my tongue!
3. Never talk about politics
This was put separately to the students from the first rule. It’s a different rule in many aspects, but it comes down to the same conclusion. My teachers didn’t want the students to involve themselves in unpleasant conversations and pry into the personal lives of other people, especially ones that we had just met. I understand where their fears lie, and yet I spend a great deal of my life talking about politics now. My husband’s family helped me a great deal with this, because from the first day I met them they were talking about politics. They tried for awhile to censor themselves for my sake, and for that I am a bit sorry. I had been thrown into a situation I was unaware actually happened, and I couldn’t respond for a long time. But now I see the positive aspects of talking about politics, and it is nearly the same as talking about abortion. We need to have these discussions to create change and to spread information. It may not be pleasant to talk about the women dying throughout the world due to poor healthcare and abusive religious rules, but people need to know.
I’m not as pleasant as I used to be, and I understand that. These rules have been broken time and again, and I’ve angered many people with my opinions and actions. But I still stand by my values. If you stay silent about certain things that you value and understand, you forsake yourself and take your own power away.
Eventually, you won’t be able to deny what you think. Eventually, you will not be polite. And I applaud you for that. Wield your power and values. They make you, you. Be real, and your relationships will become more real, deeper, and closer. Life gets easier when you don’t deny what you believe.